Tag Archive for Orange County District Attorney

Morning Links: OC driver faces DUI vehicular manslaughter charge, and a long listing of bike academic papers

The Orange County DA’s office may not move fast, but they take traffic crimes seriously.

I’m told they just filed a felony charge of gross vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence against Michael John Perez in the death of Michael Bastien one year ago today.

Bastien was riding in a Huntington Beach bike lane when he was run down from behind by the car driven by Perez, who was arrested at the scene on suspicion of DUI.

He now faces between four and ten years in state prison upon conviction.

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Great post from the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, as they ditch the usual weekly blog roundup in favor of recent academic papers regarding bicycling. I don’t know about you, but this should keep me reading for the next week, at least.

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Pro cyclist Kris Boeckmans will remain in a medically induced coma for at least a week after crashing hard in the Vuelta.

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Local

The LA Weekly catches up on DTLA’s coming bikeshare program.

Ryan Seacrest really is one of us now. He was sideswiped by a car while riding in the bike lane on San Vicente Blvd and knocked into another cyclist; needless to say, the driver claimed she never saw him. And apparently didn’t care. Sounds like an obvious violation of the three-foot passing law violation, along with a failure to yield.

Over a dozen bike riding firefighters roll through Malibu on their way to Santa Monica on the final leg of a 400 mile fundraising ride from Sausalito.

The Santa Monica Bike Center is looking for an Outreach/Communications Director, as well as a part-time tour guide.

 

State

The California legislature’s second attempt to create a hit-and-run alert system using freeway signs now awaits Governor Brown’s veto pen signature; he vetoed a similar bill last year.

An injured off-road rider was airlifted out of Crystal Cove State Park Sunday evening.

OC cyclists are invited to participate in a roundtable discussion on improving regional bicycling connectivity in the foothills area.

Caught on video: A San Francisco Critical Mass cyclist attacks a car with his U-lock after the driver bumps him when the rider blocks his car while riding on the wrong side of the road. Just Another Cyclist says this shows the time for Critical Mass has passed. Incidents like this only serve to convince the general public we’re all Critical Massholes, since most don’t seem to be able to distinguish the actions of one jerk on a bike from the rest of us.

A former bike messenger recalls the glory days of two-wheeled risk-taking delivery in the Bay Area.

A business group calls for reinstalling a third traffic lane on the undulating Richmond–San Rafael Bridge, which would force bikes into the traffic lane, rather than riding on the shoulder as they can now.

A Vacaville driver is arrested for a hit-and-run that left a bike rider with major injuries; a friend of the victim spotted the damaged truck in the trailer park where she lives.

Bad news from NorCal, as a 16-year old bike rider was killed in Hanford, and a 79-year old man died after being hit by multiple cars in Modesto; most of the drivers in that crash fled the scene.

 

National

Riders in Vancouver WA will soon enjoy the city’s first raised bike lane.

Interesting idea, as Chicago allows developers to buy a new bikeshare station in front of their properties. Something like this could help LA’s nascent system expand faster than planned.

Minnesota Public Radio hosts a discussion on bridging the gap between commuter and recreational cyclists.

It’s the usual argument in Duluth MN, as bicyclists call for a protected bike lane on a major street, while business owners argue against a loss of parking spaces. Because no one on a bike ever spends money, right?

It’s one thing to ride a bike to school; two Connecticut men are written up for riding on one.

There are a lot of good people out there. Rhode Island man replaces a boys mountain bike after it was stolen.

Streetsblog NYC says banning bikes from exiting the bridge to Roosevelt Island isn’t the way to improve safety.

New York cyclists will get their first bus bike racks on a route crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Seriously, don’t ride through a construction zone after dark or you might go off a cliff, as one Pennsylvania bike rider learned the hard way.

 

International

Make your plans for the first Gran Fondo in Havana this October, newly accessible to Americans thanks to the recent rapprochement between the US and Cuba.

Alberta cyclists call for an Idaho stop law.

A West London man will serve six months in jail after losing an appeal on his conviction for beating a cyclist with a baseball bat after the rider kicked his car during a dispute.

Dublin considers making bike and car sharing mandatory for all new apartment buildings in the city center.

Paris plans to take ciclovía a step further by banning cars from most of the city’s streets for one day later this month.

Treehugger takes a photographic ride along the new bike and pedestrian bridges of Copenhagen.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews rise up in opposition to a planned bikeshare system in Jerusalem, fearing it will desecrate the Sabbath.

After Christchurch, New Zealand suffered a devastating earthquake, the city used it at an opportunity to return to its roots as a bicycling city.

 

Finally…

Your next bike could be 3D printed and turned into compost when you’re done with it. Nothing like having a few hundred naked bike riders photobomb your wedding photos.

And if you’ve used your bike as a getaway vehicle after successfully robbing five banks, don’t ditch it after the sixth one.

 

Morning Links: OC hit-and-run truck driver guilty; SGV bike rider found beaten to death; get ready for CicLAvia

Looks like the OC DA’s office is on a roll.

In their latest court victory, truck driver Filemon Reynaga was found guilty Thursday in the hit-and-run death of 19-year old Manuel Morales Rodriguez as he rode his bike to work in October, 2013.

Reynaga reportedly drove off after getting out of his truck to look at Rodriguez, leaving him lying unprotected in the street where he was hit by a second vehicle.

It was impossible to tell which one ultimately struck the fatal blow.

Clearly, the jury decided it didn’t matter, convicting Reynaga of felony hit and run causing death and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. It only took them 90 minutes to reach a verdict.

He now faces up to four well-deserved years in prison.

Thanks to Edward Rubinstein for the heads-up.

Filemon-Reynaga-conviction

 

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A man was found beaten to death next to a bicycle in an unincorporated part of the San Gabriel Valley near West Covina early Thursday morning.

According to KNBC-4, he was identified by his mother as 25-year old Ontario resident Victor Pacheco after she rushed to the scene. Witnesses saw him being chased on his bike by a blue pickup just hours before his body was found in a vacant lot.

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Before you go to CicLAvia this Sunday, take a moment to brush up on these safety tips. Most important, in my experience, is to remember it’s not a race and maintain a safe speed; it’s the differential between fast and slow riders that seems to cause most conflicts. And always look behind you before you change directions, even to just pass another rider.

Get discounts along the route. Oddly, Tito’s Tacos doesn’t seem to be on that list.

As if CicLAvia itself wasn’t reward enough, you can enter to win free prizes including a weekend in Culver City, a Tern foldie and Cirque du Soleil tickets. Or win CicLAvia swag by taking photos at their photo hunt stops.

As a personal aside, you’ll find some of the city’s best coffee at The Conservatory along the CicLAvia route on Washington Blvd in Culver City; tell ‘em I sent you. Not that they know who the hell I am. Update: Margaret reminds us that the Conservatory is closed on Sundays; hopefully, they’ll make an exception just this once.

And just in time for CicLAvia, Walk Bike Burbank is offering free bike tune-ups on Saturday.

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VeloNews provides a nice tongue-in-cheek examination of what it would look like if the NFL was run as badly as pro cycling. And 37-year old Ivan Basso will determine his future in the coming months after recovering from surgery for testicular cancer.

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Local

A Westside resident says there aren’t enough bicyclists on Westwood Blvd to justify bike lanes, and bus-only lanes could move more people through the corridor. Never mind that bike riders are allowed to use bus-only lanes, and there might be more bike riders on the boulevard if they had a safe place to ride.

West Hollywood now has a bike-through coffee and juice window.

Registration is now open for Santa Monica’s Breeze bikeshare system; a trial system will kick off for six weeks next Thursday, while the full system is expected to go into operation in November.

CiclaValley rides the Dominguez Channel bike path, calling it “another path that was constructed as an afterthought in an area that is particularly void of bike infrastructure.”

 

State

An Irvine company is modifying their single-lever brake system to work on children’s bikes; one lever applies the front and rear brakes simultaneously, eliminating the risk of a major endo.

Not even a decorative bike attached to a private Bakersfield community library is safe from the scourge of bike theft.

A San Francisco bicyclist puts his foot down at every stop sign, since the SFPD is now ticketing bike riders — without legal justification — if they don’t, and nearly got run over as a result. Meanwhile, the SF Gate calls the crackdown on scofflaw cyclists a waste of police resources that endangers San Franciscans and incentivizes bad behavior.

When a Tahoe tourist on a rental bike does something stupid, it does not reflect on every other cyclist. When I observe stupid driver tricks, I don’t think it makes every other driver look bad; they usually do that themselves.

 

National

Bike lawyer Bob Mionske examines three-foot passing laws, and the need for police to get with the program, already.

Bicycling looks at the 500-plus pound man who started bicycling cross-country to lose weight and get his wife back; the couple has reunited and she’s now riding along with him.

The Department of DIY strikes again, as a Portland bike rider paints a warning on a hazardous road grate after getting tired of complaining about it for the past eight years; needless to say, the state DOT is not pleased.

A road-raging Kansas cyclist is lucky to get off with just 59 months in prison for shooting a motorist during a dispute; the victim gets just $2,600 of the court-ordered $19,600 restitution, despite losing an eye.

After a high school student in my hometown has his bike stolen, police find it 775 miles away in Abilene TX. And he gets personal return service, as a detective just happened to be driving down with his daughter to visit a Texas university.

Nice story, as people pitch in to help a homeless man biking across the US who cares for every stray dog he finds; the former California resident towed 11 dogs 2,000 miles in his homemade bike trailer.

People are fuming in the Bronx over New Jersey getting New York’s latest bikeshare expansion before they do.

A Virginia cyclist wins a $300,000 settlement after she’s injured when a jogger turned in front of her with no warning.

A writer for Miami’s alt weekly gets tired of the constant wrangling over the rights of cyclists, and spells out what riders can and can’t do under Florida law.

 

International

Writing about Calgary, a columnist says the city’s car culture comes at a steep price. Substituting Los Angeles for Calgary wouldn’t change the story, or the conclusion, one bit.

A Toronto writer says it’s a mixed up world when pedestrians try to punch out bike riders, and suggests the solution is to ban cars from certain streets.

A London group fixes up old bikes to provide transportation to refugees, and teaches women to ride since many weren’t allowed to learn in their old country.

The number of London bike commuters has doubled in the past 10 years.

City Lab looks at how Cambridge became the UK’s model cycling city.

An Aussie cyclist says we need to future-proof our infrastructure to find a balance between cars, bicycles, pedestrians and public transport.

Variety reviews the Hong Kong cycling flick To the Fore, calling it blandly inspiring, but with propulsive, bone-crunching cycling action. Works for me.

 

Finally…

Nine signs you need to ride more. It’s hard enough riding the Pyrenees, Alps and Dolomites back to back; now imagine doing it with one leg.

And evidently, drunk bicycling is a bigger problem than we realize; a new bike lock with a built-in breathalyzer will keep you from unlocking your ride if you’re wasted. Now if they could only make something like that to keep drunk drivers off the road. Thanks to Mike Wilkinson for the link.

 

20-year old OC driver faces 10 years for 2014 DUI death of Dana Point cyclist

Ten years.

That’s what a 20-year old driver is facing for the drunken collateral damage death of a cyclist in April of last year.

Thirty-nine-year old Haitham Gamal was riding south on PCH in Dana Point when Dominic Devin Carratt lost control of his car at high speed, drifting 200 feet through a bend in the road before slamming into Gamal’s bike.

Carratt’s car continued to drag him another 500 feet — nearly twice the length of a football field — before hitting a curb and flipping over. Gamal was pronounced dead at the scene, simply because he was in the way.

Carratt and his passenger were taken to a hospital with slight injuries, where he was found to have a blood alcohol level of .15.

Normally, that would be almost twice the legal limit. But as an under-aged driver, the legal limit in this case would be zero.

According to the Orange County District Attorney’s office, Carratt will be arraigned today on felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated, driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, and driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit causing bodily injury, along with a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury.

I’d call death great bodily injury, all right.

Unlike the LA County DA’s office, the OC DA tends to take cases like this seriously, and is more than willing to throw the book at killer drivers. And they seldom bargain away a case just to get a conviction.

That may be a product of a lighter case load, or more jail space to house convicted drivers.

Or maybe they just give a damn. And take traffic crime seriously.

Thanks to attorney and cyclist Ed Rubinstein for the heads-up.

 

Dominic-Carratt-arraignment

 

Breaking news: no sentencing in Eric Billings case today; driver found with narcotic drug behind bars

So much for that.

Word broke yesterday that the driver convicted in the death of cyclist Eric Billings in Mission Viejo two years ago was found with a prescription narcotic in her jail cell.

According to the Orange County DA’s office, former OC lawyer Hasti Fahkrai-Bayrooti was found in possession of Clonazepam, a sedative used to treat seizures and panic disorder, on May 13th as she was being held awaiting sentencing.

Something that was supposed to happen today.

However, a source reports from the courtroom that her sentencing has been delayed yet again, much to the distress of the victim’s family.

Apparently, her extremely savvy criminal defense team doesn’t work weekends. Robert Weinberg told Judge Jones that Hasti’s psychiatric evaluation only reached his office last Friday afternoon, and he hasn’t had time to review it. SINCE FRIDAY. In his defense (cough), it’s an extremely lengthy report.

The judge is unwilling to allow for any technicality that would give Hasti any possibility of appeal whatsoever, so he granted the motion to allow the delay. The defense will naturally try to incorporate any pertinent information from the psych eval into his sentencing brief. (Note: The Deputy DA managed to create a very persuasive 25-page brief on the People’s behalf just fine, without any report from the probation department.)

One of Eric Billings’ daughters who’d been unable to speak at the first attempt at sentencing was allowed to speak this morning. She vented, and clearly the judge agrees that she is absolutely right that victims have a right to a fair and speedy trial.

In the hallway prior to the hearing, she was demanding to know who Hasti’s “pharmacist” is, because she wants him investigated, and his license revoked. (When the first witness to approach Hasti after the collision asked if there was anybody she could call, she mumbled something about her pharmacist, and tried to place a call on her cell. Also, her blood drawn more than four hours after the collision indicated Alprazolam [Ed. note: the generic form of Xanax] in an amount that is usually fatal.)

At one point, Hasti attempted, in her meek voice, to speak to the judge, but her lawyer instantly spun around in alarm and shushed her.

The next attempt at sentencing will be June 19th. The DA had a prelim set for that same morning, but rescheduled it because the Billings family has suffered enough during this delay.

Oh yeah, and naturally Hasti pleaded not guilty to the new charge. And she’s not retaining her extremely savvy criminal defense team this time; instead, she has a public defender.

Fakhrai-Bayrooti had entered an unexpected guilty plea last March to a single felony count of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for running Billings down from behind as he rode his beach cruiser in the bike lane on Santa Margarita Parkway two years earlier. Billings, described by friends as a loving father and devout Mormon, died at the scene.

She faces up to four years in prison once she’s finally sentenced

In addition to all the other breaking news in this case, the California State Bar suspended the immigration attorney’s license to practice law earlier this week. Chances are that suspension will become permanent following her sentencing, especially in light of the additional drug charge.

Let’s hope the Billings family gets the justice they deserve. And that Fakhrai-Bayrooti gets the help she so desperately seems to need while she’s behind bars.

And that she’s never allowed behind the wheel again.

 

Update: Guilty plea in case of fallen OC cyclist Joseph Robinson

A source calling from the courthouse in Orange County has just reported that the driver who killed 21-year old Jax Bicycle Center employee Joseph Robinson has pleaded guilty to hit-and-run and drug charges, and will face significant jail time.

Sommer Niclole Gonzales, just 18 at the time of the collision, was sentenced to spend the next 11 years of her life behind bars after she admitted responsibility and waived her right to appeal.

Robinson was taking the long way to work on a sunny February morning last year when he was run down from behind while riding in the bike lane on Santiago Canyon Road.

He was hit with enough force to knock him and his bike completely off the roadway; his body was only discovered because an off-duty fire captain spotted a car with a shattered windshield speeding in the opposite direction, then saw a single shoe lying on the side of the roadway.

Gonzales was arrested in a parking lot a short time later as a friend helped her transfer her belongings into another car, in an apparent attempt to cover up her responsibility for the crime. She was found in possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia at the time of her arrest.

No word on why her friend wasn’t charged for assisting in the attempted coverup.

The victim’s family was reportedly in tears following the sentencing.

According to the source, the judge’s final words to her were “What a tragedy. Just because you wanted to do meth.”

Update: I corrected the above quote from the judge, which was off slightly due to a bad phone connection.

Gonzales will get credit for 888 days served, reducing her sentence by nearly two-and-a-half years; she’ll also serve three years parole upon her release.

Update 2: According to a press release from the Orange County DA’s office, Gonzales was found guilty of:

  • Felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated
  • Felony hit and run with death
  • Misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance
  • Misdemeanor use and under the influence of a controlled substance
  • Misdemeanor count of possession of a controlled substance paraphernalia
  • Along with a sentencing enhancement allegation for fleeing the scene of a vehicular manslaughter

Robinson’s family offered emotional impact statements, including this video from his mother showing him riding in happier days.

Then there’s this moving quote from his sister.

“My heart literally hurts when I think about my brother, I can’t think about him without crying. My drive to work takes me right past the accident site where his ghost bike is still hanging. Every morning and night as I pass that spot, I tell Joey aloud that I love him and cry.”

If you’ve ever wondered what harm driving under the influence can cause, that pretty much sums it up.

Thanks to Jeffrey Fylling for the press release.

Update 3: My News LA adds more details, including quotes from Robinson’s family members and his girlfriend. 

The story also quotes Gonzales’ attorney explaining that she had first tried marijuana at age 12, and quickly moved on to meth, which she had been her drug of choice ever since.

According to the attorney, she knew she had hit something, and stopped to see what it was, but continued on when she didn’t see Robinson or his bike. 

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